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Then and Now

Andy Vandervell


Back to the Future: The Way Ahead for Firefox

The success of the open-source Firefox browser, which first appeared in 2002 under the guise of Phoenix, is something of an Internet phenomenon. We’re very fond of it in the TR offices; so fond in fact that Internet Explorer is relegated to the not so taxing task of downloading Firefox and thereafter is ignored. And with 30 per cent of TrustedReviews readers using the browser, it’s obviously popular with some of you too.

That isn’t to say, however, that Firefox is universally known because Internet Explorer, due in no small part to the continued domination of Windows, is still the number one Internet browser by a significant margin. But, with awareness quickly expanding thanks to hundreds upon thousands of loyal users promoting the browser, Firefox has been proven to be more than just a passing fad.

Let’s take the UK as an example. Back in 2004 Firefox was barely a blip on the great consciousness of UK Internet users, with barely one per cent using it. Now, according to a report on netimperative, that figure has increased to 12 per cent as of late last year. In isolation this may not seem like a massive figure, but considering the massive advantage Microsoft enjoyed previously, Firefox has come on in leaps and bounds.

According to web analysts, OneStat, worldwide usage is believed to be in the region of 12 per cent, with Australia and Germany leading the way with usage in the region of 25 to 30 per cent respectively. Though much of this growth can be attributed to younger and more tech savvy users, their loyalty and continued enthusiasm have helped Firefox grow from nothing to an increasingly influential figure on the Internet.

There are, however, limits to what the community alone can do to help popularise Firefox and the Mozilla Corporation, who is responsible for the marketing and promotion of the Firefox brand, seem to have admitted as much with the first forays into TV advertising.

Yet, even in this venture, the stamp of the community is present with the Corporation using community created shorts for the campaign and going as far as to add donators names to the credits.

For many, this sense of community is a key part of the Firefox appeal and the plethora of feature adding extensions available to download have long been a source of inspiration for future udates in the full browser.

That community, active as it is, is also very vocal and has been quick to defend the browser and the Mozilla Corporation from criticism. Claims from Microsoft that Firefox represents little threat to Internet Explorer’s domination – however true they might be – have been met with derision. Rather more puerile in their nature have been the petty squabbles between Firefox and Opera devotees; though both parties have recently made an effort to diffuse such issues.

More recently the release of IE7 represented a major challenge to Firefox’s recent success, and many believed it could seriously dent its progress. Initial figures suggest Firefox usage did indeed decrease, though only by a small percentage giving Firefox a tentative reprieve.

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